Rescue divers overnight guided a beluga whale stranded in the Seine River into a net before a crane lifted it from the water. After six hours of work, the animal was placed in a refrigerated truck and transported to the English Channel port of Ouistreham.
The already weak beluga developed breathing complications during the trip, and veterinarians had to euthanize it. “Despite an unprecedented rescue operation, it is with sadness that we announce the cetacean’s death,” the authorities of Calvados said.
The plan was to move the whale to a saltwater basin in the hope that it might recover a little before being transferred to the sea.
The four-meter male weighed 800 kilograms, well below an adult beluga’s typical weight of 1,200kg, and had not eaten since it was first spotted in the Seine last week.
Marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France, which participated in the rescue operation, said leaving the whale in the Seine would have doomed it to certain death. Beluga whales cannot survive long in warm, freshwater rivers.